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Measured Multihull Rating System Comes to the Caribbean

A Gunboat ‘swinging’ on the cells
A Gunboat ‘swinging’ on the cells

Sint Maarten has been the centre for multihull racing in the Caribbean going back many years. It began with the big Spronk catamarans that ran day trips to St. Barths and Anguilla racing each other to get to the prime anchoring spots first and it continued with the infamous Caribbean Offshore Regatta. In more recent years, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has had the biggest multihull fleet of any of the major Caribbean regattas. This is where things started getting serious. The monohulls have been fairly rated in the Caribbean with the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) rating rule. This rule has outlived many international rules and has evolved to stand with the best rating systems around.

Not so for the multihulls. These beasts are difficult to rate, with subtle changes in sail size and displacement having huge effects on their speed potential. The roots of most modern multihull rating systems go back to the race around Texel Island in the Netherlands in 1984. That year, a group of dedicated enthusiasts devised a measurement rule based on the publications of major yacht designers such as John Shuttleworth, Derek Kelsall, Richard Boehmer and Olin Stephens. The Texel Rating rule, as it became known, went on to form the basis of rating systems in The Netherlands, France (as Multi 2000),  Australia (as OMR) and in other regions. Along with the rule, a huge database of production multihulls were measured and rated against each other.

Organizers of the Heineken Regatta realized the value of these ratings early on and used the standard ratings to rate the entrants in the multihull class. Measurements from custom and high performance boats were put into the calculations to approximate ratings for these. Unfortunately, because a minimum of data was available and, most importantly, accurate displacements were hard to come by, these ratings were sometimes not as accurate as may have been hoped for, resulting in some controversies after racing.

In 2012, it was recognized that if we were to rate multihulls fairly, provision had to be made to weigh them. With this in mind, St. Martin-based CSA Measurer Stuart Knaggs purchased a single point load cell with a capacity of 38 tons and then added eight smaller load cells with a combined capacity of 70 tons for use on a travel lift. The arrival of the load cells meant that multihulls could be weighed and accurately measured to give ratings that would truly reflect their speed potential. A group of CSA measurers sat down with the Texel formulas and made minor tweaks, such as adapting the way sail area is calculated, adding a daggerboard factor and altering the output to give ratings that are in a similar format to what is produced by the CSA monohull rule. These changes did not affect the essence of the rule but made it easier for measurers and race organizers in our region to use.

The Multihull Rating Rule is now ready to be implemented and will receive its big debut at the 2014 Heineken Regatta. It is hoped that all regatta organizers who arrange multihull races in the Caribbean will eventually use this rule to standardize racing up and down the islands.

Details of the rule can be seen on www.multihullratings.com

Article and photo submitted by CSA Measurer Stuart Knaggs

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